False Allegations of Atrocities

 

 

It was simply impossible, and if Ibn Hisham or Waqidi says that the Prophet ordered the assassination of his abusers, it is Ibn Hisham or Waqidi - a frail authority after all - that must be rejected, and not the Qur'an, which is admittedly the most reliable source of information as to the doings of the Prophet. The Qur'an had allowed fighting against an aggressive enemy, yet it refused to give sanction to the murder of any who abused the Prophet and Islam; nay, it plainly required such abuse to be borne patiently. It is simply inconceivable that the Prophet should order the murder of people for annoying poems and, at the same time and in the same breath, forbid that abuse should be met with otherwise than by patient endurance.



       

False Allegations of Atrocities

 

 

Muhammad the Prophet

Chapter 13: False Allegations of Atrocities

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

"Thus it is by Allah's mercy that thou art gentle to them. And hadst thou been rough, hard-hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around thee"  (Qur'an 3:159).

Biased Criticism: 

European criticism seems to have lost its sense of justice in dealing with the Prophet. All the rates of that criticism seem to be subject to the one consideration that whatever is unfavourable and damaging to the Prophet's reputation must be accepted as true. As an example of this trend of criticism, I take Mr. Cash's "Expansion of Islam" to which the author has attached an appendix of four pages in which he has collected examples of what he calls "assassinations," carded out at the Prophet's instigation and for which he calls the Prophet "cruel, treacherous and relentless" (p. 29). With one exception Mr. Cash has taken his material from Muir and, though a list of original authorities had been added, not the least attempt has been made to consider them critically before condemning a man who is looked upon as a model of virtue and kindness by 400 millions of men. The cases of alleged "assassinations" are five in all and a sixth case is that of Bani Quraizah which has already been dealt with in the 9th chapter. The last charge is that of permitting a rape, a charge false on the face of it and unknown even to Muir. A brief discussion of these cases is given below.
 
How Muslims Bore Abuses:

The first thing that strikes us here is that five out of the six alleged cases of "assassination" and "massacre" relate to Jews. The Jews were "the people of the Book," and ordinarily the dealings of Muslims with the people of the Book were much more lenient than their dealings with Arab idolaters. How was it then that the people of the Book, people whose Prophets are frequently mentioned with the utmost respect in the Holy Qur'an - how was it that these very people were chosen for assassination and such crimes were not perpetrated against the Arab idolaters who had most relentlessly persecuted the Muslims for thirteen years at Makkah, and had taken up the sword to deal a decisive blow at Madinah? Sir William Muir and Mr. Cash assert that all these persons were murdered for no offence other than that of composing verses "which annoyed the Mussalmans." Poetry was not a special vocation of the Jews, and verses abusing Islam and the Muslims were produced in much greater abundance by idolatrous Arabs than by Jews. In fact, it was the Arab, not the Jew, whose particular vocation was poetry, and satire and abusive poetry were used as weapons to discredit and defame Islam specially by the Arabs. Neither Muir nor Cash has taken the trouble of testing the reliability of the record on whose basis he has dared to condemn the most merciful and truest of men as cruel and treacherous. If the writer had gone to the root of the question, he would have found that the Prophet and the Muslims bore patiently the severest abuses and the annoying verses of all their opponents, whether Jews or idolaters. Indeed, the Holy Qur'an had plainly enjoined on them that they should bear all abuses patiently, whether they came from idolaters or from Jews and Christians. Here is a verse belonging to a period when the Muslims had already entered on a state of war with their opponents:

"And you will certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from the idolaters much abuse. And if you are patient and keep your duty, surely this is an affair of great resolution" (3:186).

This verse occurs in a chapter which contains an account of the battle of Uhud, fought in the 3rd year of Hijrah, and could not therefore have been revealed earlier than that year, and this is just the period to which most of the alleged assassinations relate. How was it possible for the Prophet and his follower's to go directly against the plain injunction of the Holy Qur'an? The Holy Prophet could not go against any Qur'anic injunction, and the Qur'an says plainly, and says it at a time when war was going on with both the polytheistic Arabs and the Jews, that Muslims shall have to hear such abuse, and they must not only bear the abuse patiently but should even guard against doing similar evil, to say nothing of murdering their abusers. How could the Prophet in the face of such a plain injunction order the murder of those who abused him, and how could the Muslims carry out an order which was directly opposed to the Holy Qur'an? It was simply impossible, and if Ibn Hisham or Waqidi says that the Prophet ordered the assassination of his abusers, it is Ibn Hisham or Waqidi - a frail authority after all - that must be rejected, and not the Qur'an, which is admittedly the most reliable source of information as to the doings of the Prophet. The Qur'an had allowed fighting against an aggressive enemy, yet it refused to give sanction to the murder of any who abused the Prophet and Islam; nay, it plainly required such abuse to be borne patiently. It is simply inconceivable that the Prophet should order the murder of people for annoying poems and, at the same time and in the same breath, forbid that abuse should be met with otherwise than by patient endurance.

Interdiction against Killing Women:

Let us now take the cases individually. The first case cited by Mr. Cash is that of Asma' of the tribe of Aus. She is said to have been a poetess who wrote some verses stating that the Prophet was an upstart who had slain many of their chiefs, referring to the battle of Badr. It is stated that she was brutally murdered for this abuse by a Muslim named `Umair, and that the Prophet not only approved of this murder but also praised `Umair for the deed. The authorities quoted are Waqidi, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Sa'd. That this is not a reliable record is shown not only by what has been stated above - that the Holy Qur'an never allowed the murder of an abuser - but also by clear directions repeatedly given by the Holy Prophet that no woman was to be killed even though she took part in actual war with the Muslims. No less an authority than Bukhari has a chapter on the "Murder of Women during War" (Kitab aI-Jihad)in which the following report from Ibn `Umar is recorded: "A woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the Holy Prophet, so the Holy Prophet forbade the killing of women and children." If the Holy Prophet forbade the killing of women even when they were actually accompanying the enemy forces, how could he approve or applaud the killing of a woman for simply abusing or composing some annoying verses? Even the Companions of the Holy Prophet were so well aware of his strict orders against the killing of women that when Abul Huqaiq's wife interposed herself between them and Abul Huqaiq, they had to withhold their raised swords "because they remembered that the Holy Prophet had forbidden the killing of a woman" (Fath al-Bari, ch. Killing of Abul Huqaiq). In the face of this clear testimony, none but a biased mind can accept as reliable a report which relates that the Holy Prophet had ordered and applauded the killing of a woman simply for the offence that she composed annoying verses. This report is undoubtedly a forgery.

The fact is thus established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Holy Prophet gave a clear interdiction against the murder of women even in wars. In this connection, a saying of the Holy Prophet has been quoted from the most reliable traditionist of Islam, the Imam Bukhari. The heading under which Bukhari quotes this saying is "Murder of Women during Wars," thus showing that the interdiction against the murder of women was to be observed even in wars. Bukhari is not alone in reporting the incident and the interdiction; it is contained in all the books of the Sihah Sittah (the six reliable collections of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet [pbuh]) with the exception of only one, and therefore its authenticity is beyond dispute. Moreover, their interdiction is accepted as a basic principle by later jurists. Thus according to Malik and Auza'i, the killing of women and children is not allowed under any circumstances whatsoever, and according to Shafi'i and Kufis, a woman may be killed only when she is a combatant, while according to one authority, even when a woman is a combatant it is not lawful to kill her intentionally unless she is about to kill or attack a man with the intention of killing him. (`Aun al-Ma'bud, Commentary on Abu Dawud, ch. Murder of Women). According to Malik and Auza'i, however, as already stated, a woman should not be killed under any condition, so much so that if a fighting force takes the shelter of women and children or takes shelter in a fort or a boat in which there are also women and children with them, it is not lawful to shoot at or set fire to the fort or the boat (Fath al-Bari, ch. Ahl al-dar-i yabitun). In the face of these facts it is simply unthinkable that the Prophet should have ordered the assassination of a woman, under peaceful conditions, for no other fault than singing certain annoying verses.

Abu Afak:


The next incident related by Mr. Cash is that relating to the alleged assassination of Abu Afak, "an aged Jewish proselyte, whose offence was similar to that of Asma'." We have no hesitation in calling this story as baseless a fabrication as that relating to the murder of Asma'. Our reason for doing this is that the interdiction against the murder of women also included two other classes, viz., children and old men. It is true that the saying of the Prophet as reported in the Bukhari mentionsonly women and children, and not aged persons, but there is a hadith in Abu Dawud (ch. Du'a al-Mushrikin) reported by Anas, son of Malik, according to which the Holy Prophet said: "Do not kill an aged person, nor a child, nor a minor, nor a woman." That the Prophet expressly forbade the killing of old men appears also from the directions given by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, to Yazid, son of Abu Sufyan, when he sent him in command of an army to Syria. In the directions given to him the following relates to our subject: "Do not kill children, nor women, nor old men." (Fath al-Qadir, vol. v, p. 202.) It is clear that Abu Bakr could give such directions only on the authority of the Holy Prophet. Hence there was an interdiction against the killing of old men as there was against the killing of women. And it is impossible, we repeat, that the Holy Prophet should have given such clear injunctions and then himself ordered the killing of "an aged Jewish proselyte," as Abu Afak is said to have been, and for no offence but that he composed some annoying verses.

The next incident related by Mr. Cash is that relating to the alleged assassination of Abu Afak, "an aged Jewish proselyte, whose offence was similar to that of Asma'." We have no hesitation in calling this story as baseless a fabrication as that relating to the murder of Asma'. Our reason for doing this is that the interdiction against the murder of women also included two other classes, viz., children and old men. It is true that the saying of the Prophet as reported in the Bukhari mentionsonly women and children, and not aged persons, but there is a hadith in Abu Dawud (ch. Du'a al-Mushrikin) reported by Anas, son of Malik, according to which the Holy Prophet said: "Do not kill an aged person, nor a child, nor a minor, nor a woman." That the Prophet expressly forbade the killing of old men appears also from the directions given by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, to Yazid, son of Abu Sufyan, when he sent him in command of an army to Syria. In the directions given to him the following relates to our subject: "Do not kill children, nor women, nor old men." (Fath al-Qadir, vol. v, p. 202.) It is clear that Abu Bakr could give such directions only on the authority of the Holy Prophet. Hence there was an interdiction against the killing of old men as there was against the killing of women. And it is impossible, we repeat, that the Holy Prophet should have given such clear injunctions and then himself ordered the killing of "an aged Jewish proselyte," as Abu Afak is said to have been, and for no offence but that he composed some annoying verses.

Only Combatants could be Killed:


In fact, as the Hidayah has put it clearly, a person's life, unless he is a murderer, cannot be taken on any ground other than that he is a combatant: "And they should not kill a woman, nor a child, nor an aged person, nor one who does not take part in a war, nor a blind man, because what makes it lawful to take a man's life, according to us, is his being a combatant, and this is not true in their case" (ch. Kaifiyyat al-Qital). In fact, this conclusion, which is the basic principle of the Hanifite law, is based on the express words of the Holy Prophet himself. As Abu Dawud reports on the authority of Rabah, son of Rabi`: "We were with the Prophet in a certain battle, and he saw the people gather together in one place. So he sent a man to make an inquiry as to why the people had gathered together. The messenger came back and said, "There is a woman killed." The Holy Prophet said, She was not Fighting. The reporter says that Khalid was leading at the time. So the Prophet sent a man to Khalid and asked him to tell Khalid that he should not kill a woman nor a hireling". (ch. Qatl al-Nisa’). By remarking that "she was not fighting", the Holy Prophet made it plain that even in battle only such persons could be killed as actually took part in fighting, and along with women he excepted hirelings, because they were only hired for other work and did not take part in actual fighting. It is on this basis that the Hanifite law excepts, along with women, children and old men, all such persons as cannot take part in fighting. And the conclusion is inevitable that according to the Holy Prophet's own injunctions the killing of a person was not lawful unless he took part in fighting, and any report to the effect that a person was killed though he was not a combatant is either untrue or defective, even if it is met with in a reliable collection of traditions. And as for biographies, they cannot be trusted at all in such matters, and the case of Ibn Sunainah's murder must be rejected as untrue. The statement that this murder was due to the Prophet giving a general order for the slaughter of the Jews is sufficient to discredit this report, for not only would such an order be against the clear injunctions of the Qur'an, but also because if such an order were given it would not have resulted in the murder of a single Jew.

Ka`b ibn Ashraf:

 

We now come to the genuine cases which are mentioned in collections of Hadith. The first of these is the case of Ka'b ibn Ashraf. We propose to discuss it in detail, for this one case would show how the Holy Prophet has been misrepresented. Ka'b's father belonged to the tribe of Tayy, but coming over to Madinah he became an ally of the Jewish tribe of Bani Nadir and became so influential that be succeeded in marrying the daughter of a Jewish leader. Ka'b thus stood in a very near relationship to both Jews and Arabs. When the Holy Prophet came to Madinah, the Jews made an agreement with him, by the terms of which Jews and Muslims were to live as one people, both retaining their own faith, and in the case of an attack on Madinah or an unaggressive war with a third party they bound themselves to help each other. The Prophet was accepted as the final court of appeal in all disputes. When, however, a Makkan army advanced on Madinah in the 2
nd year of Hijrah, the Muslims had to meet them alone, and notwithstanding that they were less than a third of the Makkan army and very inferior in efficiency and arms, they inflicted a crushing defeat on the invading army at Badr. The Muslim victory only added to the Jewish spite against Islam. Ka'b, who was bound by the Madinah treaty, now used his poetic gift freely to excite hatred of Islam and the Muslims. Not content with this, he proceeded to Makkah and openly joined hands with the enemies of Islam. He urged upon the Quraish the necessity of attacking Madinah with a strong force at an early date, and swore in the Ka'bah that he would fight against the Muslims when Madinah was invaded. Not only this; he returned from Makkah with a plan to put an end to the Prophet's life by underhand means. It is only in the true Christian missionary spirit that Muir, in his Life of Mahomet, has no place for these acts while he has sufficient room for the minutest details as to how Ka'b was put to death, and he gives vent to his inner feelings when he concludes his description of one of the alleged "assassinations" in the following words:

"The progress of Islam begins to stand out in unenviable contrast with that of early Christianity. Converts were gained to the faith of Jesus by witnessing the constancy with which its confessors suffered death, they were gained to Islam by the spectacle of the readiness with which its adherents inflicted death. In the one case conversion imperilled the believer's life; in the other, it was the only means of saving it."


And if Muir conceals the facts which show that from an ally Ka'b had turned into a combatant, Cash, notwithstanding his parading the original authorities, is guilty of the same offence. That there was a war between Muslims and non-Muslims at the time of the alleged "assassination," in the third year of the Hijrah, is an undeniable fact. The question is whether Ka'b was among the combatants or the non-combatants. If he actually joined hands with the enemies of Islam and placed himself among those who were fighting with the Muslims, and he was killed by the Muslims, can this be called a case of treachery, cruelty or butchery? That Ka'b had openly joined the combatants and become their ally is borne out by all historical accounts; nay, some of them go so far as to say that he had planned to murder the Holy Prophet treacherously. Here are a few authorities:


"He went to the Quraish weeping over their killed (at Badr) and inciting them to fight with the Prophet." (Zurqani, vol. ii, p. 10)

(The Prophet said): "He (Ka'b) has openly assumed enmity to us and speaks evil of us and he has gone over to the polytheists (who were at war with Muslims) and has made them gather against us for fighting" (Zurqani, vol. ii, p. 11)

"And according to Kalbi, he united in a league with the Quraish before the curtains of the Ka'bah, to fight against the Muslims." (Zurqani, vol. ii, p. 11)

"And he prepared a feast, and conspired with some Jews that he would invite the Prophet and when he came they should fall on him all of a sudden." (Zurqani, vol. ii, p. 12)

Commenting on Bukhari's report relating to the killing of Ka'b, the author of Fath al-Bari relates the reports which we have quoted above from Zurqani, viz., Ka'b's going to Makkah and inciting the Quraish entering into a league before the curtains of the Ka'bah to fight against the Muslims, the Holy Prophet's declaration that he had assumed open enmity, and his plan to kill the Prophet by inviting him to a feast. Bukhari himself speaks of the incidents relating to the killing of Ka'b under headings in which the word harb (fighting) occurs, thus showing that he was looked upon as a combatant. Abu Dawud speaks of the incident under the heading, "When the enemy is attacked and he is unprepared," showing that Ka'b was dealt with as an enemy at war with Muslims. And the comment on this is that "Ka'b used to incite people to murder the Muslims"; and discussing the legality of what the party sent out for the punishment of Ka'b did, the same commentator adds: "This is not allowed in the case of an enemy after security has been given to him or peace has been made with him ... but it is allowed in the case of one who breaks the covenant and helps others in the murder of Muslims." And Ibn Sa'd tells us that when the Jews complained to the Holy Prophet that their leader was killed, "he reminded them of his deeds and how he urged and incited (the Quraish) to fight against them," and adds that "the Prophet then called upon them to make an agreement with him", and this agreement "was afterwards in the possession of 'Ali." All this evidence is too clear to show that Ka'b was put to death for having broken the agreement with the Prophet and joining his enemies who were at war with him and he was therefore treated as a combatant, while the other Jews who did not go to this length, though they were not less active in speaking evil of the Holy Prophet, still lived at peace with him and all that they were required to do was to sign an agreement that they would not join hands with those who were at war with the Muslims.

The only question that is worth considering is why Ka'b was put to death by certain Muslims attacking him suddenly and unawares. In the first place, it must be clearly understood that responsibility for the manner in which he was put to death cannot lie with the Prophet. That the Prophet considered Ka'b as deserving death is quite true, but there is no proof at all that he gave any directions as to the manner in which that sentence was to be carried out. On the other hand, according to one report, when the Prophet was asked by Muhammad ibn Maslamah whether he should kill him he assumed silence, while according to another he said: "If you are going to do it, be not in a hurry until you have consulted Sa'd ibn Mu'adh" (Zurqani, vol. ii, p. 12). At any rate he knew nothing about the details, and it is even doubtful whether the details as given are true, the Holy Prophet had nothing to do with them. And leaving aside the question of the Prophet's responsibility, there was no other method to which resort could be had under the circumstances. The hostile critic takes it for granted that the conditions under which the Muslims lived at Madinah were very like those under which he lived in the twentieth century. They had to deal with an enemy, and they dealt with him in the only way in which it was possible to proceed under circumstances then existing. Ka'b had chosen to enter into a league with an enemy at war with Muslims, and according to all human and Divine laws he could not but be treated as an enemy at war. And dealing with him as a combatant, the Holy Prophet sent a party against him; it is definitely called a sariyyah (lit. a portion of an army) in all biographical works, thus showing that the party was sent to fight with him; but it rested with the leader of the party to choose the best way in which he could deal a blow at the enemy. And Muhammad ibn Maslamah, the leader, chose a method which was recognized among the Arabs and which in his opinion was the best and most effective way under the circumstances. If the leader of the party had chosen to attack Ka'b openly, there would have been much more bloodshed, and probably the whole Jewish tribe of Bani Nadir would have suffered along with Ka'b. Ka'b had broken his agreement with the Prophet, he had revolted against him, he had entered into a league to fight against the Muslims till they were extirpated, and he had secretly planned to take away the Prophet's life. For every one of these offences he had forfeited his life. A party was sent to execute this decree and his life was taken in a manner which, if it had the fault of being secret, had also the merit of not involving innocent people along with the culprit, which would surely have been the result in the case of an open attack. But the Holy Prophet was not in any way responsible for the method of the execution.

Abul Huqaiq:


Having discussed the case of Ka'b at length, the case of Abul Huqaiq (Abu Rafi`) need not detain us long. In fact, Muir had admitted his guilt with a suppressed tongue. Thus under the heading, "Assassination of Abul Huqaiq, a Jewish Chief," he says:

"A party of the Bani Nazir, after their exile, settled down among their brethren at Khaibar. Abul Huckeick, their chief, having taken a prominent part to the confederate force which besieged Medina, was now suspected of encouraging certain Bedouin tribes to their depredations. An expedition was therefore undertaken by Ali against the Jews of Khaibar ... As a surer means of stopping these attacks, Mahomet resolved on ridding himself of their supposed author, the Jewish chief ... The assassination of Abul Huckeick did not relieve Mahomet of his apprehensions from the Jews of Khaibar; for Oseir, elected in his mom, maintained the same relation with the Ghatafan, end was even reported to be designing fresh movements against Medina."


The Bani Nadir, a Jewish tribe, originally lived at Madinah, and were in alliance with the Holy Prophet, but being suspected of keeping up correspondence with the Quraish and one of the Arab tribes in alliance with them having murdered some Muslims treacherously, they were asked to renew the alliance, which they refused, and were ultimately banished from Madinah. They settled at Khaibar, a Jewish stronghold and became a source of immense trouble to Muslims, constantly inciting the tribes around Madinah to commit depredations on the Muslims. Abul Huqaiq, their head, was also a leader in the "Battle of the Allies" in which the Arabian and Jewish tribes had gathered together to give a crushing blow to Islam. Abul Huqaiq and the Jews had thus come out into the field of battle against the Muslims, and even after the allies had to go back in discomfiture, Abul Huqaiq continued to excite and help the Arab tribes living around Madinah in their depredations against the Muslims. The Holy Prophet was thus justified in sending an expedition against the Khaibar Jews, but before doing this in the 7
th year, he sent a small party to deal with Abul Huqaiq alone in 6 A.H. Undoubtedly the underlying idea was that bloodshed might be avoided, as far as possible, and that if the ring-leader was taken away, the mischief might cease. But even Abul Huqaiq's death did not bring peace to the Muslims, and, accordingly, Khaibar had ultimately to be attacked and conquered. That the party sent against him chose to adopt the method which was successfully adopted against Ka'b, again throws no blame on the Prophet.

Permitting Rape is a Grievous Calumny:


Mr. Cash's last charge against the Holy Prophet, i.e., having allowed rape of the women of Bani Mustaliq, is a grievous calumny. And the allegation that "all the Tradition Books" mention it is a bold statement. Not a single collection of Hadith contains testimony establishing the charge - a charge of which even a hostile writer like Muir is unaware. The only thing that is met with in the collections of Hadith is a report from Abu Sa'id Khudri that some people in the Muslim army intended contracting temporary marriage relations with some women who were prisoners of war and making use of a birth control device, but there is not the least evidence that they ever did it. Abu Sa'id's report, in fact, relates to the legality of `azl, a birth control device, and it does not say at all how the women of Bani Mustaliq were treated. It is a fact that before the advent of Islam, temporary marriage relations were allowed, The Holy Qur'an put an end to them, but all reform was, and had to be, gradual. The Qur'an is explicit on marriage with prisoners of war, and the verse quoted below is a clear rebuttal of Mr. Cash's unfounded charge:

"And whoever among you cannot afford to marry free believing women, (let him marry) such of your believing maidens as your right hands possess ... so marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor receiving paramours; then if they are guilty of adultery when they are taken in marriage, they shall suffer half the punishment for free married women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil. And that you abstain is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving. Merciful" (4:75).


As regards the treatment of the women of Bani Mustaliq in particular, there is the clearest historical evidence in all Hadith books that they were all set free without ransom because one of them, Juwairiyah, was set free and married by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

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